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Sunday, August 14, 2016

Why I Finally Began To Write About My Children--Philando Castile

I just read a post from a mommy blogger--which I am not--about the ethics of writing about her children, and why she has decided to stop. (Spoiler alert, it's because her father called her out on a detailed blog about the first signs of her oldest child's puberty!) 

This issue has always been a challenge for me. As some of you long-time readers may know, I have examined other writers, in a How Close Is Too Close look at their autobiographical pieces. You also probably noticed how very careful I was to keep any comments about my children brief, in the "cute comments" category, and to not to identify my children by age, by name, even by sex, or how many I have. We artists tend to create from what we see, but the ethics are more intense for children, especially since I have a child with special needs. Our battles with a school district, with the medical system, could help other parents, but they are still my child's alone. My kids have often given me permission, but you know what, their brains aren't mature enough to really give informed consent. 

Then, Philando Castile, our school's cafeteria supervisor, was shot and killed by a police officer during a traffic stop, catapulting us into the news. A good man was killed, killed because he was African-American, and the 502 children of our school, plus the children from his summer school employment, plus children in other schools where he has worked over the years, have all been affected. 

Our entire community's first impulse was to make certain that Phil's live truly mattered, especially when we saw, to our horror, that parts of our country began to demonize him. My children's reactions to Phil Castile's life and to his death could undercut that demonization. My voice--our voice-- could serve to humanize Phil, to make certain he is not just another person on the list, even though he had now become just another person on the list. We wanted to honor Phil, and that meant more than feeding kids and eating our vegetables and telling every food server we see that they touch far more lives than they will ever know. That meant changing a country that first cost Phil about $8000 in Driving While Black fines, and also involved at least fifty-two instances of life-threatening police encounters, getting needlessly arrested, and wasting countless hours in worry. That meant changing the racial idiocies of a country that saw him murdered and will likely see his shooter go free. Phil's death changed the formula, as far as I am concerned. I have to write about my children, because people have to know. If my kid's classmates are essentially living in an occupied country, the world has to hear about it. 

That's my decision. It doesn't mean I don't still wrestle with it. I hope if I have been in error, that my children, when grown, will forgive me. I hope I do not harm them. 

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